Government wants to revive last year’s citizenship changes

Alan Tudge Citizenship Bill
Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge wants to revive some of the changes abandoned last year. (Photo: Andrew Meares).

Oz Kiwi opinion

07 March 2018

The requirement for new migrants to have a proficient level of English language skills was first proposed in the Citizenship Amendment Bill (2017), struck down in the Senate last year. The Bill also sought to make migrants reside in Australia as a permanent resident for four years.

The current requirement is four years of residency immediately prior to applying for citizenship, with at least the last 12 months as a permanent resident.

New migrants living in ‘cultural bubbles’ need to improve their English skills, Government warns

7 March 2018

Henry Belot – ABC

New migrants are not integrating into Australian life as well as they used to says Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge, who is pushing for tougher English language tests.

Australia’s successful multicultural society is at risk with many migrants failing to integrate and develop proficient English skills, Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge has warned.

The Federal Government has revived its push for migrants to face tougher language tests and to demonstrate their commitment to Australian values.

Sweeping changes to citizenship laws were abandoned last year, with Labor and the crossbench criticising the changes as too harsh.

“Integration of migrants has been the secret to our multicultural success but there are a few emerging, early warning signs we are not doing it as well as we used to,” Mr Tudge said.

Government figures show close to 25 per cent of migrants who arrived between January and August last year did not speak English, or had very limited language skills.

Mr Tudge said that was an increase on the 18 and 19 per cent figures reported in the 2006 and 2011 censuses, and proof the Federal Government must intervene to safeguard successful multiculturalism.

He warned many migrants were become isolated, living in their own “cultural bubbles”, and limiting their interactions with broader society.

The former social services minister has also warned the “geographical concentration” of migrants is linked with poor English language standards.

“If we are to guarantee the social cohesion of this country, if we are to guarantee a successful multicultural country into the future, then the broad Australian population needs to have reasonable English,” Mr Tudge said.

Onus on new migrants to learn English

Mr Tudge acknowledged that some language training programs for migrants had been cut, but said there were still generous provisions and onus was also on the new arrivals to develop English skills.

“It is also partly incumbent on the new migrants when they come here that they want to learn English and we want to raise the aspirations in relation to that,” Mr Tudge said.

When the Government’s citizenship bill was abandoned last year, former immigration minister Peter Dutton flagged it could be reintroduced.

A Senate committee report on the legislation found the language tests were too tough and would exclude many migrants who could contribute to Australian society.

Mr Tudge said the test did not need to be “university level”, but needed to show “a modest understanding” of the English language.

Shadow Citizenship Minister Tony Burke has renewed his opposition to the changes, describing them as “snobbish” and “divisive”.

“A requirement for conversational level English is completely reasonable and it’s already in place,” Mr Burke said.

“The Turnbull Government’s first round of proposed changes to citizenship caused unnecessary distress to many communities all across Australia.

“Just because some Australians and people who have migrated to Australia don’t have perfect English, doesn’t mean they don’t work hard or help build the country.”

[The ABC article is no longer available].

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